Union Watch Highlights

Union Watch Highlights

Here are links to the top stories available online over the past week reporting on union activity including legislation, financial impact, reform activism, etc., from California and across the USA.

Operation: Stop Bruce Karsh From Selling Tribune to the Koch Brothers

By David Freelander, June 4, 2013, The Daily Beast

The left’s biggest bogeymen could snap up the ailing Tribune Company, and with it the ‘Los Angeles Times.’ David Freedlander reports on the effort to stop the billionaires—and whether it extends to the newsroom. The roster of press barons presiding over the contemporary American landscape is short. There are the Sulzbergers, the Murdochs, Mort Zuckerman, Mike Bloomberg, S.I. Newhouse, a few others. But there is another figure, one who gets far less attention than his fellow media moguls and who has become in the past few months perhaps the most consequential newspaper owner in the country. Protesters of a potential sale of the ‘Los Angeles Times’ to the Koch brothers, May 23, 2013, in Beverly Hills, California. Bruce Karsh, president of Oaktree Capital Management, is something of a reluctant Citizen Kane. His firm acquired the largest stake of the venerable Tribune Company newspapers last year, just as the newspapers were mired in bankruptcy and under the wobbly leadership of entrepreneur Sam Zell. The acquisition attracted little notice at the time, but Karsh, who according to Forbes is worth more than $1.6 billion and known by colleagues as one of the most astute investors of distressed debt in the nation, is about to find the spotlight. That’s because, according to rumors, Oaktree is looking to offload its stake in the Tribune properties, and the billionaire Koch brothers, who have helped bankroll a slew of conservative causes and have become the left’s biggest bogeymen in the process, are thought to be interested in buying. That’s turned Karsh into a glaring target for labor unions, liberal activists, and media advocates, who are desperate to keep the Brothers Koch—and their much feared Tea Party agenda—out of the newspaper business, particularly the Tribune’s crown jewel, the Los Angeles Times. (read article) 

Labor’s big lift in New York City Mayoral Race

By Nathaniel Herz and Beth Morrissey, June 4, 2013, The New York World

What’s a union’s support for a mayoral candidate actually worth? Not always as much as leaders would like New York to think. The gathering on the steps of City Hall sounded like a cross between a prayer meeting and a pep rally. Members of District Council 37, one of the city’s largest public employee unions, called out “preach” when their leaders took the microphone, then chanted the name of their favored candidate, Comptroller John Liu, after he accepted the union’s endorsement for mayor. But the press conference, last Wednesday, was not just a demonstration of enthusiasm. It was also about making a promise of material support. Comptroller John Liu, a Democratic candidate for mayor, accepts the endorsement of municipal workers’ union District Council 37 in late May. “We look forward to putting DC 37’s mighty army of volunteers into the field to help elect New York City Comptroller John Liu as New York City’s next mayor,” said Lillian Roberts, the group’s executive director, backed by dozens of union members clad in green T-shirts. Liu too recognized the power of the union’s ground troops. “I know that with this army of green, we are going to win this election,” he said. In New York City, the support of a union can make or break a political campaign. But not all endorsements are created equal, and divining the true value of union backing in this fall’s hotly contested mayoral election is more speculation than science. (read article) 

Labor lobbyists dress for impact in tax credit debate

By “The Buzz,” June 4, 2013, Sacramento Bee

The uniform for lobbyists hanging out in the hallway behind legislative chambers known as “the gate” usually goes something like this: gray suit, white shirt, shiny shoes. But two labor union lobbyists working the hallways last week in favor of a bill to cut back on business tax credits added an accessory not often seen inside the Capitol: feather boas. Angie Wei and Caitlin Vega, lobbyists for the California Labor Federation, donned purple feathered wraps to illustrate that the tax credit they want to abolish had gone to Sacramento area strip clubs. “Taxpayer dollars for strip clubs,” Wei called as she handed out union material criticizing California’s enterprise zone program. It’s the latest creative tactic from the AFL-CIO to promote Senate Bill 434 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would change the rules for enterprise zones. Earlier this year, union activists delivered jars of gravy to lawmakers in an attempt to argue that the program is a “corporate gravy train.” (read article) 

Did IRS Target Homebuilders on Behalf of Mobbed-Up Union?

By John Ransom, June 04, 2013, Townhall Finance

In the fall of 2011 the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service following an announcement that the administration was investigating homebuilders in an attempt to bolster union membership at the expense of housing sector jobs. “In a letter cited by The Journal,” wrote Crain’s Detroit at the time “homebuilders were asked to immediately turn over the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, pay rates and hours worked for all employees over the past two years. The letter from the Labor Department asked for the names of all contractors hired in the past year. The letter didn’t allege any specific violations of law.“ No. It was just the usual harassment that the Obama administration gives anyone when they have a disagreement with a key Obama constituency. The constituency in this case was unions that are all mobbed up. Re-write the rules, send investigators in, bury them in document discovery and government lawyers until they cave. (read article) 

Labor could hold keys to Rhode Island governor’s office

By David Klepper, June 3, 2013, San Francisco Chronicle

The support of organized labor is emerging as possibly the pivotal factor in what could be the most contentious governor’s race in decades. Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s decision last week to shed his status as the nation’s only independent governor and become a Democrat sets up a potential primary matchup with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Treasurer Gina Raimondo. While union support always plays a big role in relatively low-turnout primary contests in this heavily Democratic state, Chafee, Taveras and Raimondo all have complicated relationships with labor, meaning the maneuvering for union support is likely to begin early and play a big role in the 2014 election. “This is a chess match, and I always figured the first move was the governor’s,” said Bob Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association-Rhode Island. Chafee’s party switch “certainly changes the dynamic of the race,” he said. Raimondo angered public-sector unions in 2011 by pushing sweeping pension changes that reduced retirement benefits to many active and retired firefighters, police officers, teachers and state workers. While it’s unlikely she could salvage the relationship with unions, she can count on support from more conservative Democrats and independents who might cast a primary ballot. (read article) 

Union accuses Chicago Transit Authority of violating labor contract

By Jon Hilkevitch, June 3, Chicago Tribune

Labor peace has been short-lived at the CTA in the wake of an historic contract negotiated late last year that reformed decades-old work rules to increase efficiency and save the transit agency millions of dollars annually. On Monday, several hundred CTA employees accompanied by other Chicago unionized workers marching in support rallied outside transit agency headquarters to protest alleged violations in the new four-year labor agreement that the union rank and file ratified in December. They vowed to put political pressure on Mayor Rahm Emanuel too. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, which represents rail workers, alleges that CTA management is violating seniority rules that are the basis for customer service employees at rail stations to select their work hours. Newly hired part-time workers who are paid at a lower rate are being given priority over veteran employees to pick many of the work shifts, the union contends. And when some of the new workers call in sick, the senior full-time workers are assigned on short notice to fill in on shifts that the longtime workers should have been allowed to choose originally, union officials say. CTA management responded that it is simply abiding by the labor agreement and deploying personnel “in a manner that best serves our customers at the busiest rail stations.’’ (read article) 

Union warns labor disputes could affect what happens in Vegas

By Jeanne Cooper, June 1, 2013, San Francisco Chronicle

Contracts covering 44,000 hospitality workers in Las Vegas — including the majority of those working on the Strip — expire today, leading the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 to warn of “the potential labor for disputes, even strikes, to result.” Ostensibly to keep visitors and meeting planners informed, but clearly also to keep the pressure on key employers such as MGM and Caesars Entertainment, Local 226 has created www.VegasTravelAlert.org, which will post updates about actual and potential labor disputes and the status of contract negotiations. The new site’s users may also sign up for email updates “as well as find strategies to protect their event or travel plans from the possibility of being impacted by labor disputes,” according to the union press statement. The Culinary Workers Union’s 55,000 members primarily work in casinos on the Strip and in downtown, as part of kitchen, housekeeping and valet services, but also toil in dining outlets at McCarran International Airport and industrial laundries in the region. The union’s current list of casinos with active labor disputes — meaning no contract or union — include Red Rock Resort and less high-profile properties such Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station, Sunset Station, Santa Fe Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho and Aliante Casino. Casinos with contracts expiring today include: Caesars Entertainment: Bally’s, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood. MGM: Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo and New York, New York. (read article) 

School Board Trustee to Lead Labor Unions

By Dave Summers and R. Stickney, May 31, 2013, NBC San Diego

A potential conflict of interest in the ranks of San Diego’s School Board is now under the scrutiny of district lawyers. Board Trustee Richard Barrera has accepted the position of Executive Director of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. The local coalition of unions includes the teachers union. Barrera, who is in his second term on the San Diego Unified School Board, said he’ll recuse himself from voting on matters that the Labor Council takes a position on but he won’t resign. “I was elected with 98-percent of the vote,” Barrera told NBC 7 San Diego. “I believe we are doing a great job. We have a good team.” “I committed to the voters that I will be here through my term which ends in 2016. I absolutely will not resign this position,” Barrera said. Barrera says the school district attorneys are researching any conflicts of interest and will soon give their opinion.

Meantime, Barrera is not taking part in any of the board’s labor discussions. (read article) 

Union-Heavy Economic Sectors

By Matthew Yglesias, May 30, 2013, Slate

The declining labor share of overall national income is one of the most striking trends of our time. As recently as 2007 or so, I’d have been comfortable seeing this as overwhelmingly a business cycle issue, but it more and more looks like a structural shift in which both peaks and troughs are lower than they used to be. And one obvious culprit is mechanization and computerization. Traditionally, machines and labor have been complementary goods all things considered (and indeed in Uganda capital deepening raises wages which is why unconditional cash transfers boost growth) but that’s not a law of nature and today’s sophisticated computers might be substitutes for labor instead. But not so says Tali Kristal in the American Sociological Review, who argues that computerization stories don’t fit the sector data. She says that if you look at where the decline happened, it was in sectors with a large labor union presence: “It was highly unionized industries — construction, manufacturing, and transportation — that saw a large decline in labor’s share of income,” Kristal said. “By contrast, in the lightly unionized industries of trade, finance, and services, workers’ share stayed relatively constant or even increased. So, what we have is a large decrease in labor’s share of income and a significant increase in capitalists’ share in industries where unionization declined, and hardly any change in industries where unions never had much of a presence. This suggests that waning unionization, which led to the erosion of rank-and file workers’ bargaining power, was the main force behind the decline in labor’s share of national income.” (read article) 

Labor Unions Finally Finding Out What’s in ObamaCare, & They Are NOT Amused!

By John Lillpop, May 29, 2013, Canada Free Press

In one of the dumbest quotes ever attributed to a sitting member of the US Congress, in 2010 Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the following about Obamacare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…” That sort of mind-numbing idiocy should have sent chills up and down the spines of all intelligent Americans, including labor union leaders who ended up providing a great deal of money and muscle to make Marxist health care the law of the land. Pelosi’s faux pas was an accurate, if unintentional, affirmation that government run by morons generally produces moronic legislation. Which Obamacare certainly is! However, now that America is finding out exactly what’s in the wretched Obamacare, some of the core constituencies that helped Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi bulldoze the bill through Congress are having second, third, and fourth thoughts. In fact, some labor unions are actually calling for the “Affordable Care Act” to be repealed. These are not Republicans or Tea Party advocates, folks: These are hard core far-left Democrats! (read article) 

City of San Diego, labor agree to 5-year pact

By Craig Gustafson, mAY 28, 2013, San Diego Union-Tribune

City leaders reached a tentative agreement Tuesday with employee groups on a new contract that calls for a 5-year freeze on the pensionable pay of city workers while at the same time giving them their first across-the-board compensation increases in several years. Most workers would receive a 5.25 increase in the first three years of the deal. Police officers would be guaranteed a 7 percent increase over five years. The proposed pact solidifies a major provision of the voter-approved Proposition B — a freeze on the portion of pay used to calculate pensions that is projected to save the city nearly $1 billion over the next three decades. In the first year of the agreement, which begins July 1, the city would see its annual pension payment reduced by roughly $20 million because a long-term deal provides certainty for pension officials trying to project how much the city should pay annually on its $2.2 billion deficit. (read article)

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